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By John Helmer in Moscow

The growing number of tape-recorded disclosures from a bed belonging to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has attracted a rising vote of no-confidence in the prime minister from Italian voters, and unusual interest in what happened on the bed in much of western Europe. One Italian opinion poll published at the end of last week reports that Berlusconi has lost 4 percentage points.

A ranking Russian official has telephoned to make absolutely plain that whatever was done on the bed was Italian, and that nothing can be found there from Russia. He was responding to a request to the Russian Prime Minister’s office to clarify reports that Berlusconi had been heard on tape claiming to a lady friend that a bed in his apartment, on which he proposed she and he lie together, had been the gift of Vladimir Putin, now Prime Minister of Russia.

The Russian official identified himself by name. A subsequent check of the official records has verified his name and position in the Press Office of the Prime Minister. The official requested that he not be identified by name, but his remarks, he said, could be quoted as from the Press Office of the Prime Minister. He spoke in English.

He referred to the letter of request which his office had requested on July 21. That letter, which was faxed to the prime ministry, was in Russian, an English translation of which is as follows:

“The Italian mass-media inform that Vladimir Putin has presented to the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi a bed. Can you confirm or deny the information given? Can you say when the gift was made, and with what was it connected? ”

The request also provided for reference the Italian publication in which Berlusconi is reported to have been tape-recorded as he spoke about the origin of the bed: link

When asked what was his response to the questions asked, the Russian official said the answer of the Prime Minister’s office is: “we reject this information”.

It was then explained that this response was not quite clear, and a further clarification was requested. The official replied: “I am not in a position to explain the answer to your question.”

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